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Compulsive online shopping is an addiction that should be classified as a mental disorder, study says

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Listen up, shopaholics. Being addicted to online shopping is a real problem and should in fact be considered a mental disorder, according to a paper published in Comprehensive Psychiatry. That may come as a surprise to a lot a people, but it really shouldn’t. Buying-Shopping Disorder, or BDS, has been regarded by the mental health community as a serious psychological problem for decades. But the disorder has evolved and taken on a different complexion in the digital age.

The study defines traditional BDS as follows:

“Buying-shopping disorder (BSD) is characterized by extreme preoccupations with and craving for buying/shopping and by irresistible and identity-seeking urges to possess consumer goods. Patients with BSD buy more consumer goods than they can afford, and those are neither needed nor frequently used. The excessive purchasing is primarily used to regulate emotions, e.g. to get pleasure, relief from negative feelings, or coping with self-discrepancy.”

The potential consequences are no joke:

“In the long run, the recurrent breakdown in self-control leads to extreme distress, psychiatric comorbidity, familial discord, clutter due to pathological hoarding of goods, indebtedness and in many cases even in deception and embezzlement in order to continue overspending despite growing financial problems.”

Researchers worked with 122 people suffering from online shopping addictions and discovered that they higher than average levels of depression and anxiety.

Here is the study’s summarized conclusion:

“This study is among the first to investigate online BSD in a clinical sample. The preliminary findings suggest that probable online BSD is prevalent among treatment-seeking patients with BSD, which may encourage future studies addressing phenomenological characteristics, underlying features, associated comorbidity, and clinical relevance of this subtype of BSD.”

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr. Astrid Müller said it’s time BDS was recognized as a specific mental disorder and that more research is needed into the effects that online shopping has on mental health.

“We hope that our results showing that the prevalence of addictive online shopping among treatment-seeking patients with BSD will encourage future research addressing the distinct phenomenological characteristics, underlying features, associated comorbidity, and specific treatment concepts,” Dr. Müller said.